ACRI, Ir Amim in New Report: Neglect of Education in E. J’lem Persists

East Jerusalem schoolchildren need a thousand classrooms, but only 39 classrooms built this year

A report published today (Tuesday, August 24th) by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim demonstrates that unlike their West-Jerusalem counterparts, Palestinian schoolchildren in East Jerusalem are subject to bias. The Israeli Education law requires the State to provide education services to all Palestinian children in East Jerusalem – but despite the law, these schoolchildren are suffering from a severe shortfall in classrooms. The results: thousands of Palestinian pupils study in crowded classrooms, often in ill-fitting buildings. Many have to turn to private education, and thousands who cannot afford the pay stay at home. Despite the promises of Israeli authorities to the High Court of Justice, not much has changed in the past decade – regardless of the various petitions filed.

Read the full report here.

The main findings – in numbers:
· The shortfall in classrooms has remained the same; only 39 classrooms have been built this year
· More than 40,000 pupils have to turn to private schools who charge high tuitions
· Approximately 5,300 children do not study at all
· About half of the classrooms in East Jerusalem are not standard: 647 out of a total of 1,398; ,more than a quarter are in “inappropriate conditions”
· Most of the standard classrooms are in unsuitable environments

The plight of East Jerusalem schoolchildren is a direct result of a severe deficit in classrooms. Although the Ministry of Education and Municipality of Jerusalem do not update and publish the exact number of missing classrooms in the East Jerusalem education system, they are aware of the shortage, and agree that more than one thousand classrooms are missing. Yet, despite promises given in legal proceedings to build 644 classrooms by 2011, the construction of classrooms has proceeded very slowly. An analysis of the construction figures by Ir Amim together with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel shows that since 2001 to this date, only 257 classrooms have been built in East Jerusalem. By the end of 2010, the construction of a comprehensive girls’ school in Ras al-Amud is scheduled to be completed with 39 classrooms, and in 2011 another 42 classrooms are supposed to be built (though completion of construction by that time is not guaranteed). Even if all of the planned classrooms are built, a total of only 338 classrooms will have been built by the end of 2011, which are at most 52% of the classrooms the authorities promised to build.

The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are entitled to receive public education, by virtue of the residency bestowed upon them after Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. However, during the past school year, less than half of pupils in East Jerusalem went to public schools run by the Jerusalem Education Administration (a joint body of the Ministry of Education and the Municipality of Jerusalem); out of a total of 82,250 pupils – only 39,523 (which are 48.05%) attended public schools. The parents of more than 40,000 pupils who could not find a place for their children in municipal schools were forced to pay large sums of money to put them in private schools – run by various bodies such as churches, Islamic groups, UNRWA and commercial organizations. The vast majority of schools in East Jerusalem, in all educational streams, suffer from poor conditions and defects: dilapidated and unsafe buildings, crowded classrooms, a low academic level, dropout rates of 50% of the students and low achievements in matriculation exams.

Meanwhile, thousands of children growing up in East Jerusalem do not go to school at all: about 5,300 children are not registered in any school, public or private. The Israeli government is neither taking an interest in them nor is making efforts to return them to the education system.

The report also finds that thousands of pupils are forced to study in ill-fitting classrooms. The Jerusalem Municipality houses many classrooms in rented buildings (built for other purposes). These makeshift classrooms are small, crowded and often poorly ventilated. It goes without saying that these buildings lack libraries or laboratories, nor do they have playgrounds. According to official figures, almost half of the classrooms in the municipal educational institutions (647 out of 1,398) are not standard. Of the 751 standard classrooms, only 573 are in standard buildings. The rest are suitable in size but located in unsuitable environments.

“The dire state of the education system in East Jerusalem demonstrates that the concept of ‘a unified Jerusalem’ is not valid”, says Ir Amim executive director Yehudith Oppenheimer. “The authorities claim that Jerusalem is unified, but at the same time they continue to ignore their legal commitments to the children of East Jerusalem”.

“The severe neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem is brewing a catastrophe”, adds Attorney Tali Nir of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. “What child can develop without proper education? Although all authorities acknowledge the situation – they do not make the necessary efforts to make a fundamental change. This failure will bear serious consequences on the future”.

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Child Rights, Provision of Services, Publications and Campaigns, Right to Education, Social and Economic Rights, The Right to Education, The Right to Equality

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